| At Rams Head Live, saxophonists Michael Wilbur and Wenzl McGowan feel exhausted but satisfied after warming up the crowd for the main act, They Might Be Giants. There is a television turned to ESPN for the Final Four basketball game in the background and two old guitars, a saxophone and another instrument are affixed to the walls.
"They're like, 'Aw, you guys are insane,' and people defending, 'Oh you guys are amazing,'" Wilbur says to his fellow saxophonist upon entering the backstage green room.
Still, it's well worth it because the set featured a non-stop performance, including songs from their latest album and their music on YouTube. No, they weren't the two saxophonists performing a battle on a New York subway train, even though they're originally from New York, but they are willing to get their music and message out to the world.
"Within the term cave music, it's our mission statement," McGowan says. "Our mission statement is to organify music to make synthetic sounds with organic, natural instruments. To take a step back from this crazy business of illuminated lights and technology that is everywhere. By that, I mean, house music."
Moon Hooch is best described as "cave music," according to McGowan, which is music without synthesizers and added gadgets to give that same dance sound for listeners. The band included a single organic trio with no drum machines or pedals, consisting of Wilbur on tenor sax, McGowan on baritone and double bass sax, and James Muschler on drums. Their mission: expand cave music one album at a time and change the world to become a more environmentally friendly community.
"Last summer, we've been getting a lot into local farming, local food corps and local economy," McGowan says. "We actually bought this book today and we've been studying it intensely. It's called 'Local Dollars Local Sense.' It's about a concept of bringing the power back to the people. Essentially, not trusting our life's savings to the irrational stock market where you could lose all your money within seconds."
The band started about two-and-a-half years ago while Wilbur and McGowan lived in New York, playing on the subway platforms with James Muschler, their drummer. Their music is mainly John Coltrane meets Men at Work meets Parov Stelar, among other influences including jazz musicians, dee jays, dubstep, Indian music and industrial music.
"We didn't think anything of it, but people started dancing and asking what the name of our band was," McGowan says. "We had no name, and we had no band, we were just playing to make money. But then one day, Mike came up to say (we were) 'Moon Juice.' I said, 'That's a cool name, let's check it out.' But we found there were four bands on the Internet called Moon Juice. So, we decided to make it First Amendment. That's what we called it, and then we turned it into Moon Hooch."
They later got the attention from a talent scout from an Australian television show and started on a national tour with They Might Be Giants and re-released their record.
While in the green room, Wilbur picks up a flute and plays a few notes here and there, sometimes just holding it and other times placing his fingers in positions.
"I know a lot of people who played flute in elementary school," he states. "I'm just picking it up now."
Still, Wilbur's strongest experience is with tenor saxophone, which he'd been playing for 15 years, studying in Brockton, Mass. He got his first horn when he was eight while attending John F. Kennedy Elementary School where he met an influential teacher.
"He was the kind of guy you look up to," he says, holding the flute on his knee. "He had, like, gray hair and a bunch of pins from cities on his horn case. He would talk out the side of his mouth. And as we were walking to class, he'd be playing jazz to himself in the corner."
McGowan, on the other hand, was originally born in Spain and lived in Germany, Austria, France and Portugal before he spent the last six years in New York. He eventually started playing baritone sax less than two years ago and he had played tenor for about as long as Michael had.
"They're not very different at all," he says. "I can pretty much play the bari, I just have to get the tuning, sound and fingering."
The conversation went on for the first 20 minutes of They Might Be Giants' set, from Men at Work's "Safety Dance" (Wilbur: "My friend Ryan Miller and I used to put that album on in my living room and just dance around."), girls (McGowan: "I had a very romantic moment listening to [Parov Stelar]... I miss her, man."), and the YouTube saxophone battle on the train in New York (Wilbur: "Not like it had something to do with us. To be honest, when I first saw it, it sounded like you [McGowan] on the bari.")
But the next project for the band is to make a new music video to promote a local farm in Virginia. They're shooting the video at the Polyface Farm on Monday, April 8 and it will be released in the next two weeks.
"They're insane, they're doing the craziest things," McGowan says. "Everybody thinks they need to raise cattle, and while you raise cattle, the Earth goes to s**t. But that's only true if you do it the wrong way."
And with their new cave music sound generated from music all over the world as inspiration, their vision is clear. Moon Hooch wants to change the world one song at a time to make a healthier globe for organic farming and less greenhouse gases.
"We studied that and how we could fuse that with our positions as musicians and the growing fan base and maybe start a garden in Brooklyn," McGowan says. "Just spread the good word and be happy, live peacefully."
All the while, the band is getting a lot of attention.
While Muschler was monitoring the merchandise table as he and the rest of the band signed autographs, a man came up to him and said, "'Someone told me, 'You've got to see the opening act.'" The drummer also admits the new fan said he was so glad he did before the main act took the stage.
Meanwhile, with the following that the band has lined up for its gigs and videos, they're very content. The same goes for their mission to organically change music and the world.
"Music is just the beginning," McGowan says. "We're in our early 20s. Within the next 10 years, we're going to do the same thing to life that we did to music."
The new music video at the Polyface Farm is due to be released two weeks after the performance at Rams Head Live. The band's CD is available on BandCamp.